Voni Woods

This entry is part 1 of 8 in the series

Voni-WoodsVoni Woods: 2013 Female Executive of the Year

Giant Eagle
Senior Director of Deli

The response has been terrific to The Griffin Report’s 2013 choice for 2013 Female Executive of the Year: Voni Woods, senior director of deli at Giant Eagle. She recently was named chairman of the board of directors of the Int’l Dairy Deli Bakery Assn (IDDBA).

Here is a short biography as prepared by Ms. Woods:

“I’ve always been a very passionate strategic thinker, inspiring high performance in my teams, but falling in love with the deli began as a way to pay for college!

“I’ve spent my work life in almost every aspect of deli, bakery and prepared foods, with a focus on continual learning. This has helped me hone my skills in not only the love and knowledge of food, but in business acumen and strategy, the leadership of people and my role of relevance in a changing deli marketplace!

“ There are many role models and mentors in my family, colleagues, supervisors, and coaches who have inspired me and I’ve learned so much from them.  I have served on the board of directors of the IDDBA for over nine years and currently serve as chairman of the board for 2013.

“I am a 2009 graduate of the Women’s Executive Leadership series at Duquesne University, where I brought some of the learnings alive by launching the Women’s Business Resource Group at Giant Eagle. Our membership has over 700 team members throughout the organization and I serve as president.

“I volunteer at my church by leading a ministry as well as serving on an advisory council to the pastor.

“My husband, daughters, son-in-law and grandson inspire me every day in their own way to work hard, play hard and rest easy! Somehow the rest part is never an equal part of the equation!”

Questions & Answers:

What are goals and objectives as IDDBA president?
My first obligation is to uphold the vision and mission of the organization which is to promote the industry and  expand our leadership in the specific areas of Dairy, Deli and Bakery…and to be the essential resource for relevant information and services that add value across all food channels for those categories.

What would you like to see accomplished in a year’s time?
This is an extremely mature and respected organization and I have the great pleasure to serve as Chairman of the Board for a short period of time!  My affiliation on the Board of this organization has been over the last 9 years but many more as a guest at the annual trade show as well as a user of some of the IDDBA training and education programs.  There are many past Presidents and Board Members as well as the dedicated professions who work full time on Staff that I respect and learn from.  I hope to provide leadership this year as a role model and ambassador of the industry I and love to pass on to future leaders..

What are your biggest challenges as both IDDBA president and buyer for Giant Eagle?
Time.  Is that just the same for life?  One other thing that comes to mind is the challenges in this economic environment and to continue to focus on delivering value and quality and good food!  I have a passion for the industry and what I call “affordable luxuries” – good deli and simply delicious foods that let you eat well and be well…and live well.

What is a typical work day for you like?
Let’s just say I love to work and I spend time every day finding the joy in it in a different way.  Waking up every day and finding a better way to do something, a more efficient way and having fun in the process.

I find incredible meaning and value in “work” and I’ve enjoyed the freedom and encouragement to continually improve my business and inspire others.  Over the years, Giant Eagle has given me many opportunities and challenges and it has always been up to me to do something with them every day. Good leaders and mentors have taught me that leadership is much more than being the expert, or the achiever.  I’ve been able to work entrepreneurial and it’s been much more about being good as an individual contributor, about transforming oneself, others and an organization. At Giant Eagle, and every day, I have been able to integrate aspects of what is important to me personally, and to the community, which has allowed me to find purpose and true joy in work, which is a real gift!

What do you think are your biggest professional career accomplishments to date?
Connections and People I have worked with who have developed and moved into other positions of responsibility and somehow communicate a moment in time that I helped them get there.  On a personal level, I have a supportive husband who makes my life easy and joyous and two grown daughters that have grown into beautiful and responsible women who inspire me and keep me energized …

Do you have a defining moment in your professional career?
Understanding my role as leader and motivator and coach of is probably the most defining and launching moment of my career.  It didn’t come “fast and early”!  When I was much younger I thought my actions would translate to followership.  I learned thru mentors of my own that transformational growth into exceptional leadership involved fostering my ability to create sustainable change and that through coaching and stewardship….and more listening than talking…I could become more effective!